Chapter 19: The witch hunt

Chapter 19: The witch hunt

A Chapter by Gosia

               May trailed after enraged Aedain as the demon climbed down the steep spiral stairway, inflicting more damage to the walls on his way. Once both intruders were out of the witch’s home, the vines closed the entrance.

                “She’s not here?” Baltar already caught up to Aedain and May. The huge bald demon sighed, seeing his companion shaking his head. “That’s bad. What now?”

                Without any warning, Aedain grabbed unsuspecting May and tossed the girl onto Meirch’s saddle next to Eren. The girl whimpered, but said nothing to her captor. However, if looks could kill, there was no word in English dictionary that could have expressed how dead Aedain would be.

                “We will follow her scent and track her down,” Aedain decided.

                May tilted her head, thinking. Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to ask the villagers where the witch could have gone? May smiled to herself �" helping Aedain out of the goodness of her heart would be last thing she’d do.

                “Move,” Aedain growled and rushed forwards. Baltar sighed and sprinted after his comrade, moving with a surprising speed given his size. Meirch neighed and sprang into a gallop, nearly throwing its riders out of the saddle. May managed to grab it in the last moment. Eren finally woke up from his nap and shrieked, laying flat on the demonic horse.

“May, duck!” Eren called and May gasped, seeing a thick branch in front of her. She did as the boy said, feeling the branch sliding over her hair.

The chase through the Riada Swamp was frantic, both May and Eren had to keep their heads down and hold tight to Aedain’s steed. The two demons were keeping a good pace, making Meirch gallop the entire time. May’s nightmare lasted for hours �" her fingers felt numb from tightly holding on to the leather saddle, her back hurt because of the uncomfortable position. Once the group was out of the forest, the girl straightened her back and relaxed a bit, trying to enjoy the ride a bit. May blessed her mom for insisting that she and Hailey had to take some riding lessons.

The scenery changed. The damp air of the Riada Swamp was left behind and a refreshing breeze greeted May, caressing her face and playing with her hair. Aedain and Baltar kept running, their stamina not faltering even though they kept sprinting for hours now.

May saw something blue shimmering on the horizon. Soon it turned out to be water, the clear Eral River, called by the Laismarans An Eachainn. It was quite wide, but the trail lead to a ford. Aedain and Baltar stopped before it, as though they were hesitant to wet their feet.

“We have wings, you know,” Baltar said.

Aedain graced him with a murderous glare and his aura flared around his frame. The leathery wings sprang out of his back and he jumped into the air. Baltar followed him right away.

Meirch let out a sound which resembled a snort and dashed forward, not bothering to jump into the air. May and Eren squealed as the cool river water splashed onto them. The demonic horse outstretched his wings and neighed with joy, purposely batting the water with its clawed paws. Once they made to the other shore, the two riders were wet from head to toes.

“That was not funny.” May muttered.

Baltar laughed jovially, seeing her in such state, but Aedain remained serious.

“Where is it?” He growled. “Where is the damn scent?!”

 

 

Lavena, the witch of the Riada Swamp stretched her weary legs as she reached to her traveling bag. She fished out some cheese and bit into it, enjoying the moment of rest. When her familiar, the balding eagle, squeaked miserably, she tossed him some bread.

“We’re having a nice trip.” Lavena said to her eagle, but the bird only opened its beak in response. The witch shook her head and was about to get him more snacks when she felt something disturbing. Her senses tingled when a surge of powerful demonic energy rang in the air, spreading like a shockwave. It was invisible and undetectable for a regular human, but not for Lavena. Laismarans and humans trained in the art of magic could sense the fluctuation in Laismaran aura every time they shifted their shape or even when they made small adjustments to it.

“Oh no,” Lavena whispered when she felt the shockwave of demonic power once again. “It’s close.”

Hurriedly, the witch began rummaging through her traveling bag. The Laismarans probably were harmless, but she didn’t want to take chances. She retrieved a dried herb and stuffed it into her mouth �" it was supposed to get rid of her human scent, making it impossible to follow her. The witch readjusted the mass of her silver locks and grabbed the bag.  Not wasting any more time, she got up and got on with her journey.

The sun was nearing the horizon when Lavena had a hunch that she wasn’t alone in the area. Was it the Laismarans she felt earlier that day? The witch didn’t want to stumble on them, especially when she knew how hostile towards humans most of them were. The best would be to run away, but Lavena didn’t have any more strength left today. Having to walk for a couple of days straight was enough for an elderly woman, even though spells kept her body in a great shape.

The nearly featherless bird squeaked warningly, confirming Lavena’s suspicions.

“I have to change a bit then.” The witch muttered and retrieved a bone bracelet form her pocket. She slid it on her wrist and chanted a short, easy spell. The effect was immediate �" the silver locks became dark as night, the pale, grey eyes became golden like eyes of all Laismarans. Lavena’s wrinkles vanished and she admired her now smooth skin. The witch felt an odd tickling when the illusion rearranged her facial features and added some feathers behind her ears and on her arms.

“It’s fine,” Lavena muttered to herself, touching her pointy ears.

The witch changed her appearance in the last possible moment for she heard people approaching her. Thinking that it was pointless to hide herself, from the Laismarans, she stepped out of a birch-tree coppice where she was resting.

“Hello, travelers,” she said, surveying the newcomers �" two Laismaran warriors and two more people on a horse-like beast. Lavena barely managed to mask her surprise when she noticed that the riders were humans.

“Who are you and what are you doing here?” The group’s leader, a man with long black hair, demanded harshly.

Lavena smiled politely in response.

“I am merely traveling. My name is Tullia.” The witch gave him the first Laismaran name which came to her mind. The black-haired man didn’t answer her greeting. Instead, he circled the little coppice, sour expression on his face. Lavena was patiently waiting for him to return.

“There was a scent of a human here, but it vanished,” the group’s leader stated, glaring at Lavena accusingly. “Where is it?”

The witch froze in terror, but didn’t show it. The Laismarans were looking for her. If they dared to cross a path of a witch, they were no small fries.

“I don’t know. I was following the scent as well, but it vanished,” Lavena said with an apologetic smile on her lips. The black-haired Laismaran frowned. The witch suddenly developed an odd feeling that she had seen him somewhere before. The memory was distant and blurry, but the grimace on the man’s face helped it resurface �" a young boy with angry face… Lavena was a little child back then, but she remembered him, he seemed to be her age back then, it was in the castle of Dun Ruanaidh.

“You’re prince Aedain, son of king Kaellach!” Lavena exclaimed, remembering the name. Her gaze slid over slightly surprised Aedain to his companion, a big bald oaf. If she added some hair on that shiny skull of his, he would be familiar as well.

“And you must be the prince’s guard. I don’t quite remember your name, but I do remember that you were quite a mischievous young man ,” she said.

The tall demon smiled widely and he began absentmindedly petting his goatee.

“The name is Baltar,” he said with a smile he thought to be charming, but it turned out rather creepy. “Did we meet before? I’d remember such a looker for sure.”

Lavena bowed slightly, modestly covering her lips with her sleeve.

“I don’t think so.” She whispered, making Baltar’s smile falter. However, the demon wasn’t the one who could be discouraged so easily. He stepped forward, completely ignoring Aedain’s warning looks and made another attempt at sending Lavena a seductive look.

“It seems we won’t find that blasted witch anyway, so maybe we could set a camp, eat together…” Baltar whispered to her.

“I don’t really…” Lavena was trying to wriggle herself out of the situation, but the huge demon was persistent.

“It’s settled then. We’ll camp here,” Baltar clapped his hands.

“Baltar,” Aedain finally decided to remind his comrade of his existence. “You are not in charge, I am. We’ll stop when I say so. And I plan to make a good use of this night.”

Baltar glanced at Lavena, who looked stunning thanks to the spell she used. He bit his lower lip.

“But, Aedain,” He protested faintly. Then his face lit up as an idea came to his mind. “We can’t run in the night. May needs rest. Just look at her, she looks so tired!”

Lavena’s gaze traveled to the human girl on the demonic horse who made a pained grimace and swayed in the saddle, clearly faking exhaustion. Aedain huffed with irritation, also having noticed the girl’s poor acting performance.

“Why I have to put up with you idiots?” he muttered. “We move out at dawn, not later.”

Baltar nodded and winked at Lavena. The old witch flinched, not knowing how to react to the advances of the man �" the last time it happened she was fifty and it was over sixty years ago. Trying to act natural, she sat on an overturned trunk and waited for someone to start a conversation. However, no one made any attempts �" Aedain kept sending her suspecting looks whereas the human girl and the little half-blood boy seemed to be afraid of her seemingly demonic self. Lavena cleared her throat.

“So, you were looking for some witch,” she said, hoping to find out why she was chased. However Aedain managed to uphold poker face.

“Maybe,” he said quietly, his eyes staring at Lavena like he wanted to read her mind.

“And what possibly would you want from that witch?” she dug further.

“Not your business,” Aedain quickly finished her inquiring. Lavena felt genuine relief when Baltar returned, carrying a dead stag.

“Roasted or raw?” he asked the witch.

“Roasted.”

While Baltar was singlehandedly preparing the dinner, Lavena focused her attention on the pair of humans, sitting in some distance from her. It wasn’t uncommon that Laismarans kidnapped humans once in a while for purpose of eating them. However, the girl and the little boy didn’t seem to be that terrified, so the witch guessed they weren’t the future dinner.

“If you don’t mind me asking, why would you let the humans travel with you, prince Aedain?” Lavena asked, remembering to use Aedain’s official title.

The black-haired man scowled.

“Call me that again and I will gut you,” he threatened. Seeing the terrified look on Lavena’s face he smirked with satisfaction. “The humans are my property.”

“We aren’t!” The witch looked at the girl, who spoke up. The short, ordinary-looking, young woman stood up and glared at Aedain defiantly.

“Yes, you are,” The Laismaran prince repeated calmly. “Now, woman, be…”

“You don’t own neither Eren nor me, you jerk!” The girl protested, clenching her fists and straightening her back, as though she wanted to add herself a few inches to look more intimidating.

Not a smart move, Lavena thought when she observed Aedain walking over to the young woman. The two stared at each other. The girl didn’t seem to be willing to comply, so the Laismaran growled at her.

“I meant that,” the girl said. Lavena sighed, hearing that her voice was slightly trembling.

“As did I,” Aedain said, advancing on the girl. She didn’t back away, so he brought his face closer to her in attempt to intimidate her.

“Great, you two can either kiss or come here, because the legs are ready,” Baltar suddenly interrupted, pointing the roasted meat. Aedain suddenly pulled away from the woman as though an electricity bolt shot through him and staked away quickly, too quickly according to Lavena. The witch smirked, seeing the prince’s reaction. When someone lived as long as she did,  one had to be smart and notice some signs. Or to be a Laismaran.

“I believe I didn’t catch your name,” Lavena addressed the girl, who smiled a little bit nervously and tucked a strand of her tangled brown hair behind her ear.

“I’m May and this is…” she said, pointing at the boy.

“May, eat your food,” suddenly Aedain interrupted, not allowing her to finish the sentence. The woman narrowed her eyes at him.

“Oh, you do remember my name, what a surprise,” she said, sarcasm dripping from her words. Lavena already saw a warning grimace on Aedain’s face so she decided to intervene, preventing another spat between the two.

“May is such a lovely name. Which dukedom are you from?” Lavena asked, observing the girl. She seemed to be absolutely ordinary on the first glance �" her short peasant hair was in disarray, skin and clothing dirtied. However, her hands looked too smooth. It was apparent that she never worked a day on a field.

“I’m from Farn,” May replied, stealing a glance at Aedain as though she suspected he might interrupt her.

“Farn,” Lavena repeated, smiling playfully. “Tell me, May. Did you elope wanting to avoid an arranged marriage?”

May stiffened, staring at the witch blankly.

“W-what?” she uttered.

“My dear, your hair may be short and you would use a bath, but anyone with a keen eye can see that you’re a girl from a good family.” Lavena laughed. May’s face confirmed her suspicions. The witch shifted her gaze from the girl to Aedain.

“I didn’t think that you have taste in human girls, especially after what befell your father,” she said.

Aedain gritted his teeth as though the witch hit some sensitive spot. He slammed his fist against a birch-tree, snapping the trunk in half.

“I will give you a chance to leave now since we shared a meal. Take it or die,” the long-haired Laismaran said quietly, his ice-cold eyes set on Lavena.

Not waiting for any more threats, the witch jumped onto her feet, politely bowed her head and set off into the night.



© 2013 Gosia


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“My dear, your hair may be short and you would use a bath, but anyone with a keen eye can see that you’re a girl from a good family.” - could use a bath, not would.

The witch was certainly not what I was expecting. She seems more lively and less morbid than I thought. But this ability of hers to sense whenever the demons transformed...do the demons know? Interest power...although she's right in the enemy camp now. It'd be interesting to see how all of this plays out. Baltar was funny, I'm impressed with how you straddle their different personalities and rarely does it ever seem out of place.

Posted 10 Years Ago



Nice! We've got our protagonist! And some clues about the mirror!!! I loved this chapter, putting the pieces together was very exciting. And Levi's back! I like him.

So magic is in the language of the Laismarans... I thought the witch was one of them at first, but then last chapter she wasn't, so is she human? or something else. Because she hears "humans" as if she's not human. So I'm confused.

Comments:
"The old witch held his breath" wait, is the witch a man?
Also, there are points where the dialogue doesn't flow smoothly, Levi's interaction w/ the witch and the witch's interaction w/ the king seemed a bit awkward. I think it's b/c the witch's social position isn't clearly established, they don't seem to know how to treat her. Perhaps you could add some consistency there, like caution and fear.


Posted 10 Years Ago


Gosia

10 Years Ago

Thanks for the hints. I'll try to fix the dialogue with the witch.
And yes, she's a human. I g.. read more

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Added on August 26, 2013
Last Updated on October 1, 2013


Author

Gosia
Gosia

Poland



About
Hello, my name is unpronounceable for most of humankind, but fortunately it can be shortened to Gosia. I’m an university student in my twenties, about to face the real life very soon. I’ve.. more..

Writing
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